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" 'LEE' from Flashers"
Evan Lee, "LEE" from Flashers, Found photograph, unique manipulated pigment print on reverse of vintage Kodak photographic paper 14 X 11 inches, 2009. Courtesy of Evan Lee and Monte Clark Gallery.
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Hye Rim Lee, "HYERIMLEE," 3D animation, HD Blue-ray, 3 minutes 15 seconds, Crystal City Spun, 2007. Courtesy of Hye Rim Lee and Kukje Gallery, Seoul.
EVAN LEE, Restricted
Monte Clark Gallery, Vancouver
January 14 to February 13, 2010
By Helena Wadsley
Grainy sepia and ochre tones with hints of pinks and yellows describe skin tones. Muted bathroom tiles and shower curtains mixed with brighter colours in the items of clothing such as matching bra and panties in fuchsia create the venue. A hip juts outwards. Hands push breasts upwards. A clutter of cosmetics gives the artwork a messy, unprofessional look. In each portrait in Evan Lee’s Flashers series, the woman’s head is absent, replaced by a white orb, caused by the flash bouncing off the bathroom mirror. Lee is drawn to the failure of these found photographs where the flash erases the face; the ruptured image revealing a rawness, but hiding individuality. These photos weren’t made with extensive pre-planning, and as such they contain a naïveté. For Flashers, the pivotal work in RESTRICTED, a five artists exhibition, Lee prints with inkjet on the back of photographic paper whose plastic surface resists the ink. He brushes into the unfixed ink to achieve a painterly look, but does not attempt to alter the image. The result is a sensual brushstroke over an ambivalent, anonymous sexuality.
The computer generated video, Crystal City Spun, by Hye Rim Lee, the only woman artist in RESTRICTED, depicts her invented character, TOKI, and her sleepy-eyed dragon, YONG, who find themselves on the outskirts of a phallocentric city. Navigating without a map, TOKI appears bewildered and excluded despite her shape being remarkably similar to the dildos around her. Being female and from another culture (Korea), TOKI finds herself marginalized by gender and culture, out of place in this impenetrable community of gyrating crystal dildos. This side of sex in the cyber world is a compelling contrast to Evan Lee’s self-shot bimbos.
The question of representation of the female body in the 21st century looms. The post-feminist asserts her sexuality. The women in Evan Lee’s Flashers are an internet phenomenon, likely displaying themselves during moments of less-than-lucid thinking. If they are the “Other”, a term coined by feminists to refer to marginalization in a male-dominated culture, being so certainly doesn’t bother them as they offer their images to the voyeur.
Led by the gallery attendant through the back door and across a small parking lot, I wonder what I will encounter on the other side of the industrial-strength sliding steel door. The storage room-cum-gallery contains three Happy Porn collages by Douglas Coupland, that borrow from Japanese manga publications (Japanese comics). Exaggerated breasts and hips are the norm; a man reaches out to touch a woman’s body in one; in another he lays his head against a nipple. Despite the kaleidoscope of pop culture phenomena, the images have a sanitized look. Of his work, Coupland states, “The pieces are more about cramming as much 'forbidden' stuff as possible into one frame: sexploitation, car crashes, explosions, weapons...” Cleanly painted pastel ovals inspired by the plastic trays used in Japanese cafeterias conceal a face or body part. As with the white balls that reveal the paper’s watermark in Evan Lee’s work, Coupland’s ovals cause further breakdown of an already fragmented narrative.
Two monochrome prints by Japanese photographer Eikoh Hosoe of a reclining kimono-clad androgyne and filmmaker Larry Clark’s triptych of a shirtless teenaged boy round out the range of sexuality in the exhibition. RESTRICTED welcomes meditation on the representation of sexuality in a culture of appropriation — “the stuff is out there,” as Monte Clark (gallery owner) says; “We live in what Hal Foster (art critic, professor at Princeton University) has termed a ‘cult of inauthenticity.’ Nothing is sacred.”